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Neck Problems: Relieving Your Symptoms

The first goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms. Your health care provider may recommend self-care treatments. These include resting, applying ice and heat, taking medication, and doing exercises. Your health care provider may also recommend that you see a physical therapist, who can teach you ways to care for and strengthen your neck.

Man in shower with warm water spraying on back of his neck.Self-Care Treatments

Pain can end quickly or last awhile. Either way, you’ll want relief as soon as possible. Your health care provider can tell you which treatments to do at home to help relieve your pain.

  • Lying down for a short time takes pressure from the head off the neck.

  • Ice and heat can help reduce pain. To bring down swelling, rest an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel on your neck for 15 minutes. To relax sore muscles, apply a warm, wet towel to the area. Or take a warm bath or shower.

  • Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, can help reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen can help relieve pain. Use these only as directed.

  • Exercises can relax muscles and prevent stiffness. To prepare, drape a warm, wet towel around your neck and shoulders for 5 minutes. Remove the towel. Then do any exercises recommended to you by your health care provider.

Physical Therapy

If self-care treatments aren’t helping relieve neck pain, your health care provider may suggest one or more sessions of physical therapy. Physical therapy is performed by a specialist trained to treat injuries. Your physical therapist (PT) will teach you how to strengthen muscles, improve the spine’s alignment, and help you move properly. Treatment methods used in physical therapy may include:

  • Heat. A special heating pad called a neck pack may be applied to your neck.

  • Exercises. Your PT will teach you exercises to help strengthen your neck and improve its range of motion.

  • Joint mobilization. The PT gently moves your vertebrae to help restore motion in your neck joints and reduce neck pain.

  • Soft tissue mobilization. The PT massages and stretches the muscles in your neck and shoulders.

  • Electrical stimulation. Electrical impulses are sent into your neck. This helps reduce soreness and inflammation.

  • Education in body mechanics. The PT shows you ways to position and move your body that protect the neck.

Other Treatments

If physical therapy doesn’t relieve your neck pain, your health care provider may suggest other treatments. For example, medications or injections can help relieve pain and swelling. In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat neck problems.

 

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